~ Banterlude 9 ~

Location: Bridgend, Islay

A man pulls up alongside us in his car while we’re cycling along a quiet road just out of Bowmore. He has the deep, tremulous baritone of Brian Blessed, and come to think of it he looks a lot like Brian Blessed too. Brian Blessed, is that you? With said baritone, he bellows:

“Cycling is dangerous enough without riding two abreast!”

At which point he drives off.

I’d just like to dissect this statement, indulge me for a moment.

“Cycling is dangerous enough”.

Maybe I’ll be the judge of that, as someone who’s used cycling as her main mode of transport for over ten years and never really come a cropper. Have I just been lucky? Well, an analysis of Department for Transport data on reported road casualties by Cycling UK1 suggests that cyclists are about 15-fold more likely to end up killed or seriously injured than car drivers, with a rate of 30 deaths per billion miles cycled. It puts us on a slightly better par than pedestrians.

In 2016 there were 102 cycling deaths reported in the UK2, which is 102 too many for sure, but if we’re looking scientifically at the risk well, there were more people died in the UK in 2010 due to an inanimate object3. I guess with this crude metric inanimate objects could be seen as more dangerous than cycling. I don’t hear you bellowing about inanimate objects do I, Blessed?*

What is so dangerous about cycling anyway?

Since cyclists have similar odds of dying or suffering a fatal injury as a pedestrian on the road then it’s fair to assume that the majority of this risk is not borne from spontaneously falling off the bike.

Actually, according to the Department of Transport data, cyclists were less likely to be identified by police to have contributed to a collision than motorcyclists, car drivers, HGV drivers or light goods vehicle drivers.

So when the driver stated that “cycling is dangerous enough”, perhaps what he means is, “because you’ve chosen to cycle on this road that has cars on it, you’re forcing me to put you at substantially more risk than I’m putting myself at” ?

“without cycling two abreast”.

Why do cyclists ride two abreast? How inconvenient of us, when it means vehicles need to overtake more widely. I’ll tell you why! Because of the number of drivers that tell me, “I hate getting stuck behind cyclists. I just don’t know how to overtake them!” Cyclists’ solution: make a shape that’s more like a car. Anecdotally, when I’m cycling in a pair, riding two abreast dramatically reduces the number of drivers playing ‘any hole’s a goal’ and attempting ridiculous overtaking manoeuvres when there’s oncoming traffic on a narrow road, or a traffic calming bollard up ahead. So there.

* I’m sure it wasn’t really Brian Blessed at the wheel. In fact, the pub landlord in Bowmore told me this guy is notorious for being a self-righteous petrolhead pr*ck; I think he said his name was Geoff.

[1] https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/road-casualties-2018-vital-statistics-cycle-campaigning#:~:text=Police%20statistics%20collected%20and%20just,seriously%20and%2013%2C744%20slightly%20injured.

[2] https://fullfact.org/health/cyclist-deaths/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/oct/28/mortality-statistics-causes-death-england-wales-2010

27 July, 2020

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